Shining through…

Archive for November, 2010

Serenzippity-doo-dah

(The setting: Heaven’s karaoke room.  There’s a Man onstage.  He’s quite into His performance, grabbing the mike and Chuck Berry-hopping as He thunders, “Whoooa, what’s luck got to do, got to do with it?”  and then, “Luck, uh-huh, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothin’ – ” At this, he holds the mike out towards the angels in the audience, and they all bow before Him and sing, “Say it again!”  Which He does.)

*

Serendipity is defined as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, good fortune, or luck.”  If that’s the case, then a person going after God with all of his/her might cannot experience serendipity.  Why?  Because “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT) Luck simply doesn’t factor into it at all.

In an interesting twist, though not a serendipitous one, the root of the word “serendipity” is the Sanskrit word Simhaladvipa, which literally translates to “Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island.”  Hello!  Who is THE Lion?  His name is Jesus, and He dwells in the midst of our desirable discoveries!  In fact, He orchestrates them and soooo enjoys when we uncover them.  With that in mind, let’s revisit serendipity’s definition and update it to better reflect what we experience as His people:

Aptitude: capability, readiness, quickness, predilection, proclivity, bent, gift.  Whichever synonym you like, it’s a good thing.  We have the capability to make desirable discoveries, the readiness to, the quickness to, the predilection (tendency), etc.  Of course we do.  He put that in us!  He desires for us to see life as a series of adventures: joyful, loud, sometimes messy experiences ripe with new knowledge to acquire.  We are made for this!

Desirable:  Sometimes the experiences aren’t so much fun on the surface, and we struggle to find the good.  Let me help you not to struggle with this anymore:  What is desirable is the Godly character traits that are defined, honed in us through the experience.  Even when we make choices outside what God would will for us, and even when it seems the enemy has gained the upper hand, the Lord promises us beauty for ashes (one of the most vividly descriptive phrases in the Bible, in my opinion), promises that He will take what the enemy designed for harm and make it good.  The promise is true; the lie of instant gratification and/or results is not.

Discoveries:  Sometimes this is the fun stuff, like when a verse leaps off the pages of your Bible and you get major revelation which you never saw in the eight million other times you read that verse.  Or like when you lay hands on a sick person, and she’s healed – you discover how awesome it is to partner with God to accomplish His will in the here and now.  Sometimes the discoveries come on the heels of the not-so-fun experiences, like when everything that can be shaken in your life is being shaken, and at the end you discover that you’re still standing and your faith has grown because you have recognized the hand of God holding you up.

Accident, good fortune, or luck:  No, no, and no.  By design.  By perfect, incomparable, divine plan.  This is our destiny in Christ.

So our more accurate definition of serendipity reads something like this:  Our purposefully-designed tendency to uncover amazing and valuable treasures and ideas fashioned by the hand of God specifically for us.

That is just so much better; don’t you think? 😉

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(Much later, though HOW much later is unclear since Heaven exists outside the realms of time, the Man walks over to the side of the stage, asks a woman at a well for a drink of water, and opens a door in the floor of the stage.  He leans down toward the tiny Earth that can be seen far below and roars in a loud, loud voice:  “Plenty of Sonshine coming your way…it’s the truth!  It’s actual!  Everything is satisfactual!  Zippity doo-dah, zippity ay, wonderful feeling, wonderful day!”  All over the Earth, His children stop what they’re doing, raise their eyes to the sky, and smile.

With Appreciation for My Haircolor

You caught my eye one autumn day,

A solitary strand of grey

Which, nestled in a sea of brown,

Usurped a spot upon my crown.

 

With much surprise, I saw you there,

Unhidden as I dried my hair.

A harbinger of wisdom come?

Or just a sign I’m aging some?

 

You winked at me – how rude of you!

I looked again, and there were two.

I now began to get upset.

You said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

 

You cheeky thing, quit mocking me!

What’s that you said?  There now are three?

This absolutely has to stop!

I simply won’t go grey on top!

 

You laughed and said, “I’m keeping score,

So look again – there now are four!”

Then, furious, I plucked you out

And loudly gave a victor’s shout.

 

Your siblings chorused, “We’re alive!

And looky here; we now are five.

For each of us you pull, it’s true,

You’ll end up with another two!”

 

I scoffed, “Bad math and dirty tricks!

I bet you’ll say there now are six.

But I don’t care, grey.  This means war!

Your kind is what Miss Clairol’s for!”

*

Score –

Me: 1

Grey: O

Portrait of The Artist Still Known as God

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.  Jeremiah 18:3-4

In our culture, almost everyone, including nonbelievers, has heard the Creation story as told in Genesis.  In the beginning, God created…etc.  He created and created and created until His work was complete.  But have you ever gone past acknowledging God as Creator and studied Him as an Artist?

As I was contemplating  the verses above, I got to thinking about what I know about artists. Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Taking something from concept to reality involves work, hands-on work

2.  An artist will not sign his name to something that does not a) meet his standards  b) perfectly represent him in some way  c) match the concept he had in mind and d) elicit pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment upon completion

3.  An artist will work and re-work a piece until it’s right – he is deliberate and intentional

4.  An artist will be very selective in his choice of materials

5.  An artist will put his own spin and interpretation on things

Have you ever had the opportunity to watch a true artist at work?  He (and please understand that I’m using this pronoun just so I don’t have to do the whole “he/she, him/her/(s)he business in every sentence.  These things are absolutely true of all artists, regardless of gender) is so focused on his creation that it seems nothing else receives his attention until the artwork is finished.  Whether the artwork is a painting, a photograph, a poem, sidewalk chalk art, a clay pot, or French silk pie, it is a beautiful thing to behold the artist who is completely submerged in the act of creating.

How true is all of this of the Lord?  He is extremely hands-on with us, involved in the process from the very beginning.  He “signs His name” – in recognition of our meeting His standards, perfectly representing some aspect of Him, matching his conceptualization, and eliciting pride in Him – in blood, the blood of Jesus, which is the only medium possible for such a piece.  He works us and reworks us over the course of our lives, continually shaping us, molding us, and perfecting us until He returns.  He chooses His materials wisely: dust and blood and spirit.  He gives us each a calling – His spin on our life, which is unique to the individual.  Ephesians 2:10 says we are His workmanship, also translated as “handiwork” and “masterpiece,” both of which denote hands-on artistry.

I am profoundly grateful to The Artist who shapes me as it seems best to Him.  He knows what I am supposed to look like.  He knows that at His hand, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  And He continues to work and rework me, smoothing over imperfections and blemishes, that I might see – and be – my true and intended form.  In this Thanksgiving season, you might take a few minutes, too, and acknowledge the work of The Artist upon the masterpiece that is you.

Shivering @#!% Balls, Batman!

DISCLAIMER:  This post is COMPLETELY the hubby’s fault!

I had thought I wasn’t going to write on the weekends, you know, save my time for the family and such.  But I was sitting here laughing at a friend’s blog, and it stirred the urge to create.  Unfortunately, the urge and the actual creating just weren’t cooperating, and I refuse to phone it in.  I looked at the hubby and said, “I got nothin’.”  To which he replied, “You got bupkis.”

Me: “What?”

Hubby: “Bupkis.  You got bupkis.  Google it.”

I commenced Googling, and Oh, Em, Gee.  The hubby began to get slightly alarmed, as I started laughing to the point of tears.  While he was correct in believing it’s a way to say “absolutely nothing,” the word bupkis comes from the Yiddish for “large beans or goat droppings” and is often translated as meaning small round fecal pellets, referring to the shape of  said goat droppings.  A colorful, though more emphatic expression (in Yiddish more so than in English) is “Bupkis mit Kuduchas”, translating roughly to “shivering @#!% balls.”

Maybe I’m just sort of immature, but you’d be laughing, too, if you could see the visual I got upon reading this.  I’m not even sure I can explain…

At any rate, there IS a lesson to be learned here (and it’s not “don’t listen to your husband.”) 🙂 🙂 🙂  What I got from it was this:  Make sure you know REALLY well what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.  You never know who’s in your audience, whom you might offend inadvertently, or how easily you can make yourself look like a blithering idiot. (See Proverbs 13:16)

Happy rest of the weekend, y’all!

Evasive Maneuvers, or How to Escape the Tamale Fiends

I spend a lot of time in HEB. For those of you not in Texas, it’s Howard Edward Butt’s eponymous grocery store chain, based out of San Antonio. It’s decent, as grocery chains go, and each store seems to have its own “flavor.” Here in the tiny burg I currently call home, we have what’s known as an HEB Plus, which sells non-food items like small electronics and so forth, as well as groceries. The flavor of this particular store is along the lines of “country folks tryin’ to appear sophisticated-like.” In other words, they sell Brie and a few imported olive mixes but look askance at me when I ask for wild-caught red snapper:

[Fish counter gentleman: “Ma’am, that’ll run ya $25 a pound and you’ll need to order it special. No one in these here parts’ll pay that much for fish, so we don’t stock it.”
Me: “But your sign says you have it.”
FCG: “Uh, yeah. That’s an old sign, there. Guess I best take it down.”
Me: “Sigh…you know, your corporate slogan is, ‘Here, Everything’s Better.’ This isn’t better.”
FCG: “Uh…”]

So I’ve had to come to terms with my store’s limitations: I go into Austin when I need expensive fish or turbinado sugar, and I just get the basics here. Which is what I was doing this afternoon when the tamale fiends came out to play. (Now, I need to preface this by saying that I live in a HIGHLY Caucasian-populated area. Having lived on the southeast side of Austin for the last six years, it’s a bit disconcerting, to the point that I actually notice when people are of other ethnicities.) M and I walked in the door and were instantly accosted by a VERY cheerful Caucasian lady trying to foist “tamollys” on us. I said no thank you and we continued on our way. She followed us a few steps, calling, “But we have chicken and beeeeeeeeef!”  M and I giggled and headed for the cheese aisle. A few minutes later, on the bread isle, we were almost run over by an elderly white gentleman pushing a tamale cart. This man has a very distinctive voice – he gets on the PA system regularly and admonishes us to “remember what your grandmaw says: You’re gonna get a lickin’ if you don’t buy an HEB Rotisserie Chicken!”  Today, he was wandering the aisles singing a very loud, twangy song about tamales. He saw us, got a gleam in his eye, and pushed his cart full throttle (way faster than I would have thought possible for a man of his age) towards us. I looked at M and said, “Quick! Turn around and walk really fast!” We escaped for the moment, but he was relentless. It seemed he must have figured out how to fold space and time because that man showed up on almost every aisle we walked down.

Finally, I started getting annoyed. My thinking was (quite honestly): “Why are they getting a bunch of white people with hick accents to sell tamales?? Oh, wait. Because that’s all there is up here.”  They’re NICE white people with hick accents; let me hasten to say. But still…there’s something missing in the translation. I decided to face Mr Tamale Hick head on. He was behind us, telling another customer that HEB had hired him to “walk down the aisles bein’ crazy and entertainin’ the shoppers.” As he started toward me, I stood my ground. He began to sing his song again, and when he wound down, I merely asked him, “Sir, did your vieja add enough manteca to her masa? Por que if not, your tamales will be reseco.”

Ahhhh, the golden sound of silence.  Behind me, a tiny Hispanic lady smiled and applauded noiselessly as the man stood there with a puzzled expression. M and I turned and headed for the milk.

*

Postlude:  What, no spiritual truth or life lesson today?  Well, there is this:  Many times, the enemy is relentless in his pursuit of us, trying to entice us with things we don’t need or want, counterfeits of what is best.  We just need to know the Word to say to stop him in his tracks.  With apologies to Matthew 4:4, man does not live on tamales alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

I’ll Be Pollyanna if I Want To, TYVM!

I woke up this morning in an upbeat, thankful mood, which, unless I’m sleep-deprived (are you listening, Texas State OCED Department??) is pretty much my general outlook on life.  Even when circumstances are El Sucko, or I’m aggravated about whatever, it doesn’t take me long to bounce back and decide that something really good must be on its way.  (You know that song from Pocahontas, “Just Around the Riverbend?”  That’s how I feel.  Well, except the part about ignoring distant drumming for a handsome, sturdy husband doesn’t really apply…)

So I went through my day, and it really seemed like everything was butterflies and rainbows – the weather was beautiful; I had lunch with a good friend; my son and I hung out together after school;  NorthGate was amazing (for lack of a better way to explain it, it’s kind of a cell group/house church-type thing); and then I got to introduce my husband to a man who is a sort of mentor for me, and they clicked immediately.  Even the horrendous Austin traffic didn’t bother me much.  I just kind of walked around in this cloud of thankfulness all day, and it was awesome. 🙂

Then I got to thinking about how many people have scorned my way of looking at things.  I’ve been called naive, clueless, out of touch.  One girl even told me once that I’m way too “Pollyanna” about life.  For those of you who haven’t the foggiest idea what she meant, Pollyanna is a character from a book written in 1913.  She’s an orphan, and she plays “The Glad Game,” in which she chooses to find something to be glad about in every situation.  The girl who said this to me was not being complimentary.

But I ask, what could possibly be wrong with intentionally searching out the good?  There is a lot of darkness in this world; I know that well.  But there’s a difference between acknowledging that the darkness exists and letting it determine how I see.  Focusing on all the bad allots the enemy way more authority than is rightfully his…and besides, God promises us beauty for ashes.  He takes things that the enemy intended for harm and makes them into blessings.  (It’s my opinion, by the way, that God gets the blame for a lot of things He actually has nothing to do with…but that’s another blog entry for another time.)

So to that girl and her ilk, I say go ahead and disparage my optimism.  I’m sorry you take such a dim view of things – you’re missing out on the beauty that’s all around you.  As for me, I will continue to see the best in people, to hope, and to take joy in the little things.  And of course, I’ll be glad to point them out to you. 🙂

 

Mr Crankypants Needs a Hug or Ten

There’s this kid in my Mass Comm class whom I dubbed “Mr Crankypants” (only in my mind, though) at the beginning of the semester.  Slightly built and intentionally bald-pated, he would be handsome if only  A) he didn’t positively quiver with negativity and B) his repertoire of facial expressions included more than Sullen Ire and Bored Disdain.  He slouches in the back of the classroom and has no qualms about interjecting inappropriate and antagonistic statements into whatever discourse is taking place.  His two photo projects thus far have focused on futility and emptiness: there is no God, humans are worthless, we’re all going to die at our own hand, etc.  He is rude, disrespectful, and disparaging.

And all I want to do is hug him.  I want to go up to him, wrap my arms around him, pat his little clean-shaven head, and tell him it’s all going to be okay.  I want to somehow infuse him with the knowledge that someone cares – because I recognize the symptoms.  Mr Crankypants suffers from “No One Loves Me” syndrome.  I think he’s passed through stage 1 (Hurt and Bewilderment) and stage 2 (Anger and Defensiveness) and he’s well into stage 3 (Bitterness and Wallbuilding).  The only cure for this ailment is large, repeated doses of Love and Compassion.  Unfortunately, its symptoms make administering the treatment somewhat difficult.  Persons suffering from “No One Loves Me” syndrome exhibit extreme lack of trust, as well as Tourette’s-like outbursts , and they have often lost the ability to recognize their state of mind.  In the most serious cases, sufferers can become violent and/or severely depressed.

I don’t know what happened to him.  But sometimes I watch him when he thinks no one is looking, and I see the hard expression fade from his eyes for a minute.  Then he just looks like a lost and lonely little boy, and those are the moments I feel compassion well up within me and I just want to make it all better.  I want to tell him that he is valuable, he is loved by One who cherishes him more than he could think possible.  At the same time, I marvel at the fact that I also love him, a virtual stranger –  something I couldn’t do had it not been done for me.  I so appreciate the beautiful symmetry of the situation and its built-in reminder to give freely what I have received freely.

A good friend posted a status on Facebook recently that said, “Jesus doesn’t fix people until they are normal; He loves them until they are whole.”  What an amazing thought!  Here’s another – He often does so through His people.  Lord, I pray that you would love people into wholeness through me.  And if I’m not able to reach Mr Crankypants, then send lots of Your other people to love on him until he just GETS it, and he is healed.  Amen.

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